Dumbarton House Featured Flora: Scholar Tree, Pagoda Tree

Written by: Kathy Clare, Garden Volunteer

Sophora japonica

Sophora japonica is native to China and Korea, but not Japan. The common name, Pagoda Tree, recognizes the early use of the tree in Japan around Buddhist temples. In China it is the symbol of the 8th moon, when the official examinations for political positions took place and was cultivated by aspiring scholars. It is a deciduous tree that can grow to 70 feet with a spread of 50 feet. Small fragrant pea-like creamy white flowers bloom in summer. Flowers give way to slender, 1-6 seeded, knobby, bean-like pods. It is best grown in rich, medium moisture, well-drained sandy loams in full sun to part shade. It is a good street tree as it is tolerant of common city pollutants and conditions. It is also a good shade tree for parks and suburban gardens.

Sophora japonica is one of fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to promote optimal vein health.